Ask any crappie expert and they will tell you that in reality its not that hard to catch these fish. Basically all you have to do is put the bait, minnow, or jig in front of the fishs face. ,Not that hard huh? ,What makes crappie fishing difficult at times is eliminating unproductive waters and not spending time casting at water that has no fish.
This time of year you want to be fishing structure more than cover. ,Structure is the geological makeup of the river floor or depth changes that you need to be targeting. Cover is the type of available brush or woodpiles at these different depths. Red River is going to be high in March and April, and there is no denying it. Fishermen looking for crappie should spend time in the back of oxbows with creeks flowing into them. Brush piles on the sides of or in the middle of these creeks will be hot spots full of fish. Use of a good depth finder is the key to finding these structure and cover bonanzas.
If you are looking for a new twist that may make it a little easier to eliminate water and let you practice for springtime bass, there is a little group of anglers on Red River doing some different techniques. Drop shotting is one of the hottest new techniques for bass on the pro and amateur tournament trails, now a lot of people fishing Red River have adopted it for crappie fishing.
For most days any type of jig or minnow fished around this brush piles will pull in as many fish as you and you fishing partners can handle. However there are the days that seem to just be the day you should have stayed at home and cleaned the garage like your wife wanted you to. You know the days when you start putting your hook in the minnow bucket just to know that a fish saw your hook. These are the days to try the drop shot. I came across this rig when watching the BASS Top 150 on Toledo Bend a few years back when Takohiro Omaora destroyed his competition with it. He explained it to me and others gathered around his boat as the ultimate teasing bait. What happens is the bait stays in the fishes face so long that it just cant take it anymore and attacks the bait.
This is the thing that anglers on Red River have adapted to crappie fishing. One day last year while my daughter and I were fishing for a mess of fish a local let me in on the secret. We hadnt had a bite all day and were about to call it quits when we pulled up to a man who was pulling one in the boat about every 3 or 4 minutes. I finally asked him what he was doing different. I guess they just arent around us today, I told him. Oh they are there, if youve caught them here before they are still there. Nine times out of ten they just need to be upset enough to bite, he told me. Ive started using a modified drop shot to make them mad enough to get a mess.
What he and others were doing were taking the normal drop shot rig and making a few small changes to make it crappie ready. In its basics drop shoting is taking a hook and placing it above your weight. Proper rigging is the key to this technique. You start by tying the hook on with a palomar knot, leaving a long tag end usually 10-36 (however I have used this rig with the hook tied as high as 5 foot above the weight). Pass the line through the hook eye from the topside down, this will keep the hook straight out. Next tie your weight on the bottom and you are ready to go. Nose hook the worm or tube you are using on the hook. This is critical, as the exposed hook is how the fish helps hook itself.
Instead of using the lighter weight we started using a ½ ounce catfish weight and a small Crème Solid body tube jig on a Daiichi bleeding bait Drop Shotn hook just above the weight. What this allowed us to do was hang the weight in the brush and leave the bait in the fishs face for long periods of time. Picking up the jig and letting it slowly fall back towards the weight would drive the fish crazy. If the line starts moving or you feel just a little resistance dont jerk hard just start reeling up and the fish will hook itself. A slow sweep hookset is all you will need, as the principals of the hook are that as the fish inhales your bait, they turn away while chewing or killing its meal.
Another technique to target later in the month is moving shallow and trying the drop shot instead of jigs or shiners. Shorten your drop shot hook depth and look for the crappie moving in to spawn. Crappie will start spawning in late March on Red River oxbows. Applying the drop shot for shallow water takes a little different rigging procedure. Instead of using the traditional spinning rod we have adapted the drop shot to a BnM type jigging poles. These 10 to 12 poles make excellent drop shot poles in shallow water. All you have to do is fish the rig just like the traditional jig, but now instead of dropping the jig in on the fish you will now have the jig dancing in front of the fish driving him crazy.
If you are looking for a way to learn a new technique that will help you catch not only crappie but bass as well, try the drop shot like the local anglers on Red River. Not only will you put another weapon in your fishing arsenal but also you are very likely to put some fish on the table on slow days.